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Epidemic Control Toolkit
for community volunteers
Switch to response managers
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Last update: 2023-06-21

Key facts

Transmission: direct and indirect contact, airborne 

  • Direct contact with (touching) infected animal products like wool, hair, hides and meat 
  • Eating (indirect contact) infected animal meat or products
  • Breathing in anthrax spores (bacteria in the air), usually from infectious animal products

Most vulnerable to contracting the disease

  • People who work closely with animals or animal products (e.g. farmers, veterinarians, employees of slaughterhouses or wool mills, etc.)


  • Fever and chills (sometimes)
  • Headache (sometimes)
  • Muscle aches/body aches (sometimes)
  • Nausea and vomiting (sometimes)
  • Abdominal pain (sometimes)

Type-specific symptoms 

Type Symptoms

Cutaneous (skin)

  • Small blisters or bumps, may itch and swell
  • Painless sore or ulcer with a black centre
Inhalation (lungs)
  • Cough and shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Severe sweating 
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion or dizziness
Gastrointestinal (digestive system)
  • Swelling on/around neck 
  • Sore throat/painful swallowing
  • Hoarseness 
  • Diarrhoea/vomiting (might contain blood)
  • Red face and red eyes (flushing)
  • Fainting/dizziness
  • Swelling of the abdomen


What can you do to prevent and control an epidemic?

Monitoring the community and identifying sick people and animals

  • Detect sick people quickly for referral to health facilities 
  • Monitor the community for clusters of sick or dead animals 
    • Report any clusters to your supervisor, animal health and welfare authorities and/or health authorities 
    • Encourage quarantining sick animals from healthy ones
      • Discourage community members from taking sick animals to markets or other places where they may encounter other animals or humans
    • Encourage minimal contact between sick animals and humans
    • Limit contact between sick and healthy animals, stop sick animals from reaching market, etc.)

Treatment and management

  • Refer suspected human and animal cases for screening and treatment
    • Refer people to health facilities
    • Notify animal welfare authorities or care providers (such as veterinarians) of suspected cases in animals
  • If treatment is available (for animals or people), encourage people to seek and complete treatment as directed by health care providers
  • Provide psychosocial support to the sick person and their family members

Safe animal handling

  • Safe handling and slaughtering practices including supervision and meat inspection
  • People working with animals or animal products should wear protective clothing and equipment and follow recommended hygiene practices
  • Follow safe burial practices for animals infected by anthrax
    • With the assistance of your supervisor, obtain animal burial/disposal recommendations (for anthrax) from animal welfare or health authorities

Hand hygiene 

  • Promote good hand hygiene (handwashing with soap) 
    • BEFORE: preparing food; eating; feeding a child; treating wounds or caring for sick people
    • AFTER: using the toilet or cleaning a baby; touching garbage or waste; touching or feeding animals; blowing nose, coughing, or sneezing; treating wounds or caring for sick people

Food and water hygiene and safety

  • Cook animal products thoroughly (meat, milk, blood).

Social mobilization and health promotion

  • Find out the specific advice being given by health and other relevant authorities
    • Promote recommended health practices (such as safe animal handling and use of protective clothing and equipment) 
  • Model following this advice and inform community members of current health practice advice  
  • Offer support and encouragement to people to help them follow the advice  
    • Try to gain understanding about if and why health advice is not being followed  
    • With the advice of your supervisor and health authorities, work with communities to overcome barriers to following health advice and recommended practices 


  • Support efforts to vaccinate (ring) all animals/livestock at risk (if available)
  • Support vaccination campaigns for high-risk individuals (if available)

Mapping and community assessment

  • Make a map of the community.
  • Mark the following information on the map:
    • How many people have fallen sick with anthrax? Where?
    • How many people have died? Where? When?
    • How many animals have died? Where? When?
    • Who and where are the vulnerable people? (where are farms, slaughterhouses, wool mills, etc?)
    • Where are the handwashing facilities in the community? (are there stations at animal markets and other areas where livestock gather?) 
      • Are soap and water always available?
    • Where are the local health facilities and services? (include traditional healers)
  • Record the following information on the back of the map:
    • When did people start to fall sick with anthrax? 
    • Which type(s) of anthrax is/are infecting people?
    • How many people live in the affected community? How many are children under five years of age? How many people work with livestock regularly?
    • What animals do people commonly keep or farm?
    • Do people cook meat and milk thoroughly before eating it?
    • Do any animal health agencies, veterinarians or agriculture ministry agencies work in the area?
    • What are the community’s habits, practices and beliefs about caring for and feeding sick people?
    • What are the community’s habits, practices and beliefs about care and slaughter of animals? 
      • Are there societal, cultural or religious beliefs or perceptions about the care and slaughter of animals? 
    • What are the community’s habits, practices and beliefs about sick or dead animals?
      • How do people dispose of animal carcasses (by burning, burying, eating, etc.)?
    • Is a social mobilization or health promotion programme in place?
    • Which sources do people use/trust the most for information?
      • Are there rumours or misinformation about anthrax? Are there rumours or misinformation about vaccines? What are the rumours?
    • What role do women play in livestock management (including caring for animals, gathering animal feed and selling animal products in markets)?